Ford Fiesta review
The Ford Fiesta earns its place atop the best-sellers list with great driving dynamics, but it's cheap to run and attractive too
The Ford Fiesta has been the UK's best selling car since going on sale in 2008, and once you've driven one, it's quite easy to see why. The Fiesta is quite simply one of the best all-round small hatchbacks available today. Despite being almost eight years old, there are still very few rival models that can match the Fiesta’s blend of versatility, comfort and driving enjoyment. And with a range of very frugal petrol and diesel engines, as well as decent residual values, it’s cost-effective to own, too.
All that makes the Fiesta one of the most satisfying new small cars you can buy. It’s not perfect – the cabin’s button-heavy styling is dating fast, and others offer better quality – but it remains near the top of its class.
Since 1976, the Ford Fiesta has regularly seen the top of the best-sellers list - more than four million of them have found homes in the UK, and that sales success doesn't look like it will stop with this sixth-generation model. The latest Fiesta has matured as it's aged and become sleek and stylish, but without sacrificing cost-effectiveness and versatility. It also remains the best car to drive in its class.
Introduced in 2008, the current model really is one of the best superminis around. Some rivals may have superior quality, are slightly more fun to drive or a little more spacious, but none quite blends all three qualities like the Fiesta.
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Designed to take on small car rivals such as the VW Polo, Peugeot 208, Skoda Fabia and Vauxhall Corsa, the Fiesta combines decent practicality and low running costs with engaging driving dynamics and distinctive styling.
A 2013 facelift saw it get a visual overhaul for a slightly classier look which has since been echoed by the Focus and Mondeo, plus a three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine was added – which instantly became our pick of the Fiesta range thanks to peppy performance and decent economy.
That facelift also debuted Ford’s MyKey technology, great for parents looking to share the car with their newly qualified children. MyKey allows owners to pre-programme a maximum speed and stereo volume whenever the car is used by someone else, as well as preventing driver aids and safety systems from being deactivated.
As with all Ford models, there’s a wide and slightly confusing range of trim levels to choose from, comprising Studio, Style, Zetec, Zetec Colour Editions, ST-Line, Titanium, Titanium X, ST and ST200. All models get electric front windows, a USB connection and powered and heated door mirrors, while all bar Studio get air conditioning as standard. Alloys come from Zetec onwards. Those wanting a bit more power, can utilise specialist tuners Mountune, who add tweaks to existing car to optimise performance. Many won't affect the manufacturer warranty, either.
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All Fiesta models are economical, but as usual the one with the lowest CO2 – the 88.3mpg, 82g/km Econetic – comes at a price premium, so for any buyer it’s a balance between the additional purchase cost and fuel savings. For example, consider that a 1.0T petrol EcoBoost version – our favourite Fiesta engine – will cost significantly less to buy but still posts 99g/km CO2 and 65.7mpg. That’s hardly thirsty.
Regardless of specification, all Fiestas get the same rakish and head-turning exterior styling and are available in either three or five-door guise. The only exception are the Red/Black ST-Line and ST, which are three-door only.
Engines, performance and drive
The Fiesta has a reputation for delivering fun handling and an entertaining drive, and it can still show its most recent competitors a thing or two about driver involvement.
The steering is light and direct, making the car nimble and fun to drive, while easy-to-use controls and good visibility make the Fiesta a confidence-inspiring partner around town. On the motorway, a smooth ride and a quiet interior give it a ‘grown up’ feel.
Despite coming with electronic stability control and traction control as standard, the Fiesta has a ‘natural’ feel to the driving experience that even some sports cars can’t match. The brakes are excellent too, easy to operate smoothly while powerful too. That’s especially the case with the beefed up brakes fitted to the most powerful ST model.
The Fiesta is a great all-rounder then, though the Volkswagen Polo is the class leader in terms of outright refinement, especially at higher speeds.
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As well as the standard five-speed manual gearbox, which has a nicely slick shifting action, Ford also offers the Fiesta with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It’s called Powershift and available on Zetec, Titanium and Titanium X models, powered by the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine or the wheezy and outdated 1.6-lite petrol.
Powershift is quick to change gears and almost as smooth as a traditional torque convertor automatic, but it’s a shame that it’s still not as refined as the standard-setting Volkswagen dual-clutch DSG unit. What’s more, manual shifts are only available via a tiny and counterintuitive rocker switch mounted on the lever, rather than more handly steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters.
Our favourite Fiesta engine is the 1.0-litre turbo EcoBoost with 98bhp, which not only has more than enough low end grunt for the supermini, it’s also keen to rev and sounds characterful with it. In the real world, this means confidence-inspiring overtaking pace that allows you to power up motorway inclines even in top gear – hills that would leave some small cars struggling.
A low power 1.0-litre 3-cylinder engine is available too, without the turbo of the EcoBoost models and producing 79bhp. It's a smooth and characterfully thrummy unit, but you have to work it hard to make progress.
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Compared to the aforementioned 98bhp EcoBoost there’s really no contest – that’s the one to have. However, if you’re looking for a little more power there’s a 123bhp version of the turbo EcoBoost, which really does feel like a bigger engine than the three-cylinder 1.0-litre it is.
The 98bhp engine does 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds, and the 123bhp version in 9.4 – not quite in the hot hatchback league, but good enough for safe overtaking. Both versions are smooth and quiet too.
The other 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine takes power up to 138bhp, naturally offering an even quicker 0-62mph time – 9 seconds flat – while still retaining good economy and refinement. It’s only available in ST-Line trim so buyers of this engine must also deal with firmer suspension and a sporty-looking body kit. Those wanting to stick with the 1.0 but add even more power should look toward specialist tuners Mountune, who can tweak the car's ECU to deliver up to 163bhp.
Amazingly, Ford still offers its long-serving 1.25-litre four-cylinder petrol alongside its newer three-cylinder units. Available with either 59bhp or 81bhp, this powerplant is still eager and smooth enough, but it can't match its modern counterparts for efficiency.
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Next there’s the 180bhp EcoBoost engine of the high-performance Fiesta ST, this time using four cylinders and a 1.6-litre capacity. Throaty sounding and packing a serious punch, this engine pushes the Fiesta ST to 62mph in under seven seconds – though economy suffers, dipping below 50mpg. Again, Mountune will offer performance tweaks to up the ante even further.
At the top of the range is the limited run (just 400 examples hae been earmaked for UK buyers) ST200. Based on the standard ST, it gets 197bhp an 290Nm of torque, while an overboost function swells these figures to 212bhp and 320Nm respectively for 20 second full throttle bursts. in combination with a subtly revised final drive ratio for the gearbox it results in a 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds and a 142mph top speed.
Only one diesel engine remains in the Fiesta range: a 1.5-litre TDCi, although it’s available in two power outputs. We’d recommend the most powerful 93bhp version. It can do 0-62mph in a reasonable 10.9 seconds, compared with the 72bhp version's 13.5 seconds.
As with most small cars, the difference in refinement between diesel and petrol is marked, with the former more obviously chugging away under the bonnet of the Fiesta, especially after cold starts.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
A supermini should be cheap to run, and happily the Ford Fiesta doesn’t disappoint in this area. Prices start at around £10,000, with our favourite EcoBoost Zetec version costing just £14,000. Better still, you should be able to haggle decent deals with your Ford dealer on most models so the Ford gets off to a very good start in the cost of ownership stakes..
For those seeking the best possible fuel economy, the Fiesta ECOnetic fitted with the 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine is the star turn, boasting CO2 emissions of just 82g/km and combined fuel economy of more than 85mpg. That said, be wary of overall running costs because the ECOnetic badge carries a premium, while Ford claims every diesel Fiesta is capable of more than 75mpg.
Given that the majority of small hatchbacks like the Fiesta are used for short journeys, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol will be a sensible bet for most. Both the 98bhp and 123bhp engines qualify for free annual VED, and although ST-Line models with 138bhp push this up to 104g/km, that’s only a £20 annual penalty – perhaps not a deal breaker in the grand scheme of things.
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The 79bhp version of what is basically the same engine sits at the other end of the scale. It matches the 98bhp EcoBoost for running costs, but we'd recommend spending the additional £500-odd to step up in power, where the engine has to be worked less hard.
If you must have the 1.25-litre, then it's worth bearing in mind that it can't compete with the 1.0-litre units for efficiency. Both the 59bhp and the 81bhp versions emit the same 122g/km of CO2 and claim to return 54.3mpg at the pumps.
If fuel costs are less a concern than performance, you won’t mind the penalty that a Fiesta ST brings, with its 138g/km CO2 rating meaning £130 in annual VED and, realistically, 35-40mpg day-to-day. As it happens that’s the same CO2 rating as the Fiesta automatic with the 1.6-litre petrol engine, meaning the convenience of no clutch pedal will also hit you in the pocket.
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During regular day-to-day driving you can expect to return close to 50mpg in the more frugal petrol models (ST aside, that is) and in excess of 60mpg in the diesels.
Ford Fiesta insurance ratings begin at a scooter-like group 3 for the most basic model, while most fall between 11 and 12. The sporty ST-Line comes in at a slightly prohibitive 18, though that jumps all the way to 30 for the range-topping ST, reflective of its performance and desirability. In general, you'll pay a little more to insure a Fiesta than you would a Vauxhall Corsa or Hyundai i20.
Our experts predict that the Ford Fiesta will hold onto its value reasonably well, with an estimated figure of 39.7 per cent after three years. That’s not bad at all considering it’s Britain’s best selling car – and more desirable versions like the ST will top 40 per cent.
Interior, design and technology
As it’s such a common sight in the UK, it’s a good job the Fiesta has a rather striking design. The overall style is sporty and dramatic when compared to its closest rivals, with a rising waistline that gives the Ford a rakish profile. Distinctive LED daytime running lights feature on all versions, apart from the entry-level Studio.
The Zetec – the best-selling model in the Ford Fiesta range – gets some extra glamour courtesy of its 15-inch alloys, front fog lights, additional chrome trim and body-coloured door handles and mirrors as standard kit.
There's also the option of an eye-catching Zetec Colour Edition that features Frozen White paintwork with contrasting Candy Blue roof panel and door mirrors, or Candy Blue panels with Frozen White finish for the roof and doors. Both versions get white 15-inch alloys and privacy glass, while inside the steering wheel and gearlever gaitor get white stitching.
In the middle of 2014, Ford released Red and Black Edition versions of the Fiesta. As the name alludes to, these get a styling makeover that is based around either red or black paint. The Black Edition gets a mostly black body, set off by red wing mirrors, a red roof and red accents around the grille, while the Red Edition is essentially the reverse. They get some sporty interior updates, too, like red stitching and sports seats.
These boldly coloured models are now part of the recently introduced ST-Line range. This sporty variant gets an ST inspired bodykit that comprises a large tailgate spoiler, side skirts and a deeper front bumper, plus it benefits from unique gunmetal grey 17-inch alloys. Inside there are sport seats and a chunky three-spoke steering wheel, while under the skin is a lowered and stiffened suspension set-up.
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At the top of the range is the Fiesta ST hot hatch. Featuring an aggressive body kit, 17-inch alloy wheels and a smattering of ST logos, it makes no bones about its performance potential. The ST200 adds a two-tone finish for the wheels, plus bespoke SVO Storm Grey metallic paint. Inside it's identified by its seatbelts that feature a silver contrast stripe and a half leather finish for its heated Recaro seats.
Every Ford Fiesta gets electric windows and a USB connection as standard, while Style adds air-con, remote central locking and body-coloured door mirrors and handles. The Zetec gets all this kit, plus desirable extras such as a heated windscreen, leather steering wheel and trip computer.
Quality is good generally, with decent fit and finish plus plenty of soft-touch materials – although some of the plastics used in the lower half of the cabin are a little hard and scratchy. The Fiesta’s warm red ambient lighting helps give the cabin a classy feel at night.
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The chunky rotary controls for the air-con are clear enough, but the blocky blue LCD display looks quite dated when compared to the colour screens and white-on-black read-outs found in newer rivals. There’s plenty of adjustment on the seat and steering wheel, so it’s easy for drivers to get comfortable. ST models benefit further from figure-hugging Recaro seats.
A key piece of technology in the Fiesta, literally, is Ford’s MyKey system, which basically allows the owner to restrict things like speed and stereo volume – the sort of things that a parent might like to rein-in should one of their children borrow the car.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Ford Fiesta is attractive inside, although while some will find the sweeping design of the dash very pleasing, it has lots of small buttons and doesn’t have the restrained, simple class of something like the Volkswagen Polo. That’s mostly down to the stereo controls, which take a little getting used to and certainly don’t give the Fiesta an especially cutting edge feel; the design was based on the keys of a 2007-era mobile phone.
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The Sony unit in the Titanium and ST versions is a little clearer, however – and gives sound quality a welcome boost at higher volumes. Frustratingly, Ford charges an extra £200 for Bluetooth and a DAB radio on the entry-level Studio, though it’s standard elsewhere.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Despite its neat dimensions, the Ford Fiesta is a versatile choice, particularly in five-door form. However, it can’t match the clever packaging of roomy MPV-inspired rivals like the Nissan Note and Honda Jazz for space and family-friendly practicality.
What it does get spot on is the driving position, which is highly adjustable and should prove comfortable for people at either end of the body size spectrum. Combine that with the Fiesta’s very supple ride quality on all but the roughest of roads, and you’ve got a supermini with genuine big car feel from the front.
A split-folding rear bench is standard, which means at least one person can travel in the back if bulkier items in the boot require part of the seat to be folded down.
The Fiesta’s dimensions are pretty much standard for a car in this class, and virtually identical regardless of whether it’s three-door or five-door car. We say ‘virtually’ because, oddly, the five-door is a few millimetres wider.
But this is not a car that ever feels large or unwieldy around town, as per other cars of its size like the Vauxhall Corsa or Volkswagen Polo. It’s easy to judge where the corners are – aided by good all round visibility – and therefore very easy to park or squeeze into gaps in traffic.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The Ford Fiesta gets adequate head and legroom for rear passengers, and lots of thought has gone into the interior, where you’ll find plenty of storage cubbies and a number of cup-holders. A one-litre water bottle will fit in the door pockets, while higher-specification models get a centre console armrest that doubles as a deep storage bin.
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Access has been equally carefully considered, including on the three-door, which makes rear access easy with wide-opening doors and front seats that slide forward with an easy lever pull.
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Open the tailgate and there’s a 290-litre boot when you stick with the standard tyre repair foam - the capacity drops to 276 litres if you specify the £100 space saver spare wheel. With the seats down there are 974 litres to play with, but the high load lip and narrow tailgate mean the Fiesta has a somewhat restricted boot; increasingly, small cars are offering twin-level boot floors with a raised loading lip, but the Fiesta doesn’t have this.
Reliability and Safety
Auto Express's reliability ratings are based on our Driver Power survey of over 30,000 car owners. Ratings are the average for all owners of this car who responded.
The current Ford Fiesta still feels fresh as a daisy years after its launch, and has in fact continued to fare better year-on-year since its Driver Power debut in 2013. Jumping from 117th that year to 52nd in 2015, owners absolutely love its handling and how easy it is to manoeuvre, while it’s also proving cheap to run and reliable.
Negative scores come in for practicality though, with the Fiesta not using its space as well as newer rivals, while build quality is also a persistent problem.
A five-star Euro NCAP safety rating shows that the Fiesta offers top-notch crash safety, and all models include electronic stability control, seven airbags and anti-lock brakes. MyKey is a brilliant peace-of-mind safety assistant for younger drivers, while Active City Stop – a system that automatically applies the brakes if it detects an imminent low speed crash – is optional too.
The Fiesta carries the same warranty as all new Ford passenger cars, meaning three years/60,000 miles for mechanicals and a six-year corrosion warranty. A year’s free Ford Assistance covers roadside recovery and repair too. All of this is transferable to subsequent owners if the car is sold on.
Those opting for Mountune upgrades should note that some tweaks will invalidate the original manufacturer warranty. Mountune does offer its own 12-month guarantee on any altered parts, though.
Ford offers a £550 pre-paid servicing pack, which covers scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles. Otherwise, servicing costs are around industry standard. Because Ford’s UK dealership and servicing network is vast, it won’t be a problem to find a nearby dealer – and shop around a few for the best price. Parts availability is, it follows, excellent too.